i?8 THE GAY GENIUS
magistrate at Fouchow, a little below Chungking in Szechuen, a girl
appeared in his dream and said to him: "I am your previous self and
I am buried in a certain place. The coffin is decayed and on the left
side there is a big ant nest. Please have it removed for me." Huang
did so, and the body odour in his left armpit disappeared thereafter.
As an assistant magistrate Su had no great responsibilities except pre*
siding at court trials. This was something he heartily disliked, knowing
that the people who had been arrested were chiefly those who had
violated laws of the new regime, laws that he disapproved. Yet there
was the law and he could not alter it. It is perhaps easiest to under-
stand the mind and heart of Su Tungpo at this period by reading the
poem he wrote on New Year's Eve when he had to try prisoners
arrested for salt smuggling. The government monopoly had taken over
the trade in salt, but the traders in the salt-producing area around Hang-
chow Bay refused to be driven out of business. The complete situation^
of salt smuggling was embodied in a letter by Su Tungpo to a cabinet
minister. We are not concerned here with the objective conditions, but
rather with the poet's attitude towards his fellow-men, for he saw no
difference between himself and those on trial.
"On New Year's Eve, I should go home early,
But am by official duties detained.
With tears in my eyes I hold my brush,
And feel sorry for those in chains.
The poor are trying to make their living,
But fall into the clutches of the law.
I, too, cling to an official job,
And carry on against my wish for rest.
What difference is there between myself
And those more ignorant than I ?
Who can set them free for the time being?
Silently I bow my head in shame." *
To Tseyu he wrote more intimately: "There are certain things which
used to shame me, but of which I am no longer ashamed now. I sit
facing the ragged prisoners and witness their flogging. When I talked
with my superiors, my mouth said 'yes' but my heart said 'no'. What %
the use of occupying a high position, while degrading one's character?
My vital spirit has shrunk and withered, no longer what it used to be."
In another poem he spoke about the sufferings of the people under
the paochia system, and described how the people screamed when they
were whipped, and how even men's wives and children were put in jail.
* A facsimile of the original of this poem in the poet's own handwriting is
reproduced in the beginning of this book.